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This report is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Letter from Trinidad Vahni Capildeo
London. A plush hall. Tiers of poets and other businesspersons. A voice from on high: 'A book can be marketed exactly like a smoothie.' Oxford. 'Meet me in the bookshop's second-hand department. We can grab a coffee. I've already done my shopping, in the children's section.' Consider the winter of bookshops in Britain? Well, for now, here is a different story. I fly...

Christmastime transforms Trinidad, my other island, where Hanukkah remains cryptic, the solstice alternative is little known, and Catholics and Hindus unite in their love of twinkly lights and lavish giftwrap. The wet-bright December sky thickens alcoholically, like ponche de crême.

Christmas Eve in Joan Dayal's Paper Based Bookshop at the Hotel Normandie in Port of Spain: how does this work?

Everything has its language; and O Reader conversant with Planograms, Reader aware that Footfall (people) may increase where the Shop Floor exploits the Pinball Effect (sidetracking customers into a maze of undreamt purchases), Reader innocent of the Bum-Brush Effect (can an unsmall person, carrying an unsmall bag, browse the aisles without fear of contact?), Reader with Retail Awareness, how account for the liveliness, the ease, in Joan's tiny, overcrowded bookstore?

Miraculously, everyone who enters wants to buy new books, preferably hardcover. Nobody leaves empty-handed. In fact, these customers, or visitors, make demands and declarations, lamenting that their desires exceed their means. An architect's wife, in a minatory tone, asks Joan whether the book on the Carib wars that was reviewed ...


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